Abnous, K., Dieni, C.A. and Storey, K.B. 2008. Regulation of Akt during hibernation in Richardsons ground squirrels. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1780, 185193. DOI:10.1016/j.bbagen.2007.10.009

Regulation of Akt during hibernation in Richardsons ground squirrels


Khalil Abnous, Christopher A. Dieni and Kenneth B. Storey


Akt (or protein kinase B) plays a central role in coordinating growth, survival and anti-apoptotic responses in cells and we hypothesized that changes in Akt activity and properties would aid the reprioritization of metabolic functions that occurs during mammalian hibernation. Akt was analyzed in skeletal muscle and liver of Richardson's ground squirrels, Spermophilus richardsonii, comparing the enzyme from euthermic and hibernating states. Akt activity, measured with a synthetic peptide substrate, decreased by 6065% in both organs during hibernation. Western blotting showed that total Akt protein did not change in hibernation but active, phosphorylated Akt (Ser 473) was reduced by 40% in muscle compared with euthermic controls and was almost undetectable in liver. Kinetic analysis of muscle Akt showed that S0.5 values for Akt peptide were 28% lower during hibernation, compared with the euthermic enzyme, whereas S0.5 ATP increased by 330%. Assay at 10 C also elevated S0.5 ATP of euthermic Akt by 350%. Changes in ATP affinity would limit Akt function in the hibernator since the muscle adenylate pool size is also strongly suppressed during cold torpor. Other parameters of euthermic and hibernator Akt were the same including activation energy calculated from Arrhenius plots and sensitivity to urea denaturation. DEAE Sephadex chromatography of muscle extracts revealed three peaks of Akt activity in euthermia but only two during hibernation suggesting isozymes are differentially dephosphorylated during torpor. Altered enzyme properties and suppression of Akt activity would contribute to the coordinated suppression of energy-expensive anabolic and growth processes that is needed to maintain viability during over weeks of winter torpor.